Joanne Trotta
Managing Partner & Founder
LeadersEdge Inc.

By Joanne Trotta, Certified Emergenetics® Associate, CEO of LeadersEdge, Inc.

When experts talk about self-awareness and leadership, they don’t always discuss the concrete advantages leaders can experience. Often, the benefits of self-awareness are described in abstract terms. For example, you have probably read that high levels of self-awareness are linked to healthy relationships or an enhanced ability to nurture personal development. Or you may have heard that self-awareness can help leaders avoid “tunnel vision.” These are all worthwhile endeavors, to be sure, yet these improvements can seem a little vague.

Many people in leadership positions want more data, more proof and more concrete examples of how self-awareness improves leadership and benefits organizations.

What does this knowledge actually do? Why is it so critical — and why should you invest your limited time and energy into developing it? How does it give you the edge you need to stay fresh, innovative and one step ahead of the competition?

The Bottom-Line Case for Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is more than just a nice idea; it is crucial for improving the fortunes of your organization and its bottom line.

The business world is characterized by constant movement and change. What was true five minutes ago is not necessarily true right now. Self-aware leaders are more likely to be focused on the moment and circumstances at hand, rather than the past or the future. However, most leaders are not self-aware.

In a world where most leaders lack self-awareness, developing this important quality is key to organizational success. In a study that examined 72 senior executives, high scores on tests of self-awareness were the most prominent predictor of overall success. These leaders use awareness of their strengths and weaknesses to hire people who complement their skill sets. They also solicit feedback more frequently — and willingly — than others. Furthermore, leaders with the greatest levels of self-awareness are generally more flexible, agile and better able to adapt on the fly to changes.

Ultimately, a leader’s self-awareness has a direct impact on their organization’s bottom line. Those who lack self-awareness may lack the ability to lead their organizations in a healthy manner. On the other hand, those who maintain a sense of self-awareness translate their leadership into positive outcomes for their businesses.

Leading Through Peaks and Valleys

It is not uncommon for modern leaders to be isolated and to be free from the moderating effects of checks and balances. Essentially, when an individual rises to the role of leader, there is rarely anyone around to provide constructive criticism.

When a leader hits a peak and things are going particularly well, they may lose sight of themselves and make decisions that are not conducive to the success of their organizations because success may make them less likely to question their methods.

At the other end of the spectrum are leaders who have experienced organizational downturns or losses. These individuals lose confidence quickly, and they may start to second guess themselves and their decisions, compounding and exacerbating the downturns their organizations have taken.

These two scenarios are quite common for leaders. Every organization experiences highs and lows, and those that are led by self-aware leaders stand the best chance of surviving — and even thriving — despite the hardships presented.

Leaders who are self-aware understand that they are not necessarily their best selves when dealing with the extremes of business. They keep an even keel whether times are good or bad. Because all organizations go through peaks and valleys, the ones that are led by self-aware individuals have a serious competitive advantage.

How do those leaders do it?

Prioritizing Humility

Self-aware leaders take themselves seriously. They just don’t do so at the expense of their organizations. They are better able to gauge the impact of their own contributions to success while recognizing the value that others bring to the table. They recognize that luck and other factors outside of their control also play important roles in the outcomes they experience.

Operating with humility is one of the hallmarks of self-aware leadership. And it brings some serious benefits:

  • A more engaged and enthusiastic workforce
  • More meaningful connections with individual team members
  • Increased clarity around decision making and judgment
  • A stronger sense of empathy

Being humble keeps you grounded, present and realistic about your impact on your organization. It does not mean that you should act timid or indecisive. Rather, humility gives you the ability to see the landscape exactly as it is; not how you or anyone else thinks it should be. And when you see the world this way, you give yourself an edge.

Practicing Pattern Recognition

Have you ever noticed that some of the most successful and visionary leaders also happen to have a keen sense of human psychology? They have an uncanny ability to recognize patterns of behavior in others, which gives them a significant advantage. However, it’s their ability to recognize their own personal behavior patterns that gives them a leg up on the competition.

While there are no shortcuts in leadership, one way to better understand these patterns is by taking assessments like the Emergenetics® Profile. Emergenetics reveals an individual’s preferences for three Behavioral Attributes (Expressiveness, Assertiveness, Flexibility) and four Thinking Attributes (Analytical, Structural, Social, Conceptual), which helps leaders view their behavior and thought patterns with eyes wide open.

When you are self-aware, you become much more tuned in to your personal patterns of thought and behavior, making you more mindful of your tendencies and more aware of who else may be able to provide you with complementary strengths. Furthermore, you take note of the patterns that tend to result in positive outcomes.

Dropping Defenses

Self-aware leaders are masters of handling criticism and feedback, whether it’s positive, negative or neutral. They know not to take any of it personally, and they resist the impulse to react defensively. Their self-awareness gives them the ability to remain open minded, allowing them to integrate feedback that makes them more effective.

Leaders who approach criticism and feedback with self-awareness give themselves a massive competitive advantage because they are willing to adapt, change and operate with flexibility. They don’t fear feedback; they actively seek it out, which improves every aspect of their leadership.

How Are You Developing Your Self-Awareness?

Do you believe you are already self-aware? You may be surprised by the results of your assessment! While 95 percent of leaders believe they are self-aware, only 10-15 percent actually demonstrate self-awareness in assessments.

If you are intrigued by the competitive advantages that increased self-awareness can bring, take the Emergenetics Profile to learn more about your preferred ways of Thinking and Behaving. At Leaders Edge, we believe in self-awareness as a cornerstone of effective, grounded leadership and that almost every leader can benefit from training to improve self-awareness.

How are you expanding your self-awareness? What methods do you feel are most effective?

You can leave a comment below or email me at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!